Many patients suffer with blood sugar imbalances chronically. Their blood sugar may often be too low, too high, or a combination of the two. These fluctuations can cause a wide array of symptoms that are often not addressed in the healthcare system.
If you have hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), you will have symptoms such as increased energy after meals, craving for sweets between meals, lightheadedness, fatigue, feeling shaky, jittery, or tremulous, poor memory or blurred vision. Conversely if you have high blood sugar spikes or insulin resistance you will feel fatigue after meals, constant hunger, craving for sweets, wide waist girth, frequent urination, difficulty losing weight and aches and pains.
The number of providers dealing with these blood sugar imbalances is underwhelming. Glucose is the primary fuel for the brain, intimately linked with neurotransmitter production and brain health, and unstable levels can hinder multiple brain functions and eventually lead to brain degeneration. Often patients with the above symptoms are put on psychotropic drugs, sleep medications, or labeled with a psychiatric disorder.
How do blood sugar imbalances affect the brain?
Given that glucose is a key fuel for the brain, hypoglycemia promotes certain neurological symptoms. Moreover, eating excess sugar and starchy foods increases brain inflammation as does higher insulin levels. In fact, balanced insulin levels are key to good brain health. Those diabetics who are insulin dependent have a fourfold increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s dementia due to the excess insulin. This is because insulin surges reduce the brain’s ability to clear out amyloid plaques that are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is appropriately nicknamed “Type 3 Diabetes”.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter made in the brain and responsible for our happiness and joy. Lack of serotonin is linked to depression, PMS, winter blues, anger etc. Serotonin is made with the precursor Tryptophan which comes from our protein consumption. So, a diet deficient in protein is already going to lack tryptophan and hence serotonin. For tryptophan to me made into serotonin, it must cross the blood-brain barrier via an amino acid transporter. The right amount of insulin is needed to initiate this transfer of tryptophan into the brain. If too little insulin is present, less tryptophan is available in the brain to convert to serotonin and a patient can feel depressed. If too much insulin is present, more tryptophan is going into the brain elevating serotonin levels and causing sleepiness. This is one of the reasons people feel tired and sleepy after a meal.
Dopamine is our pleasure and reward neurotransmitter. A deficiency of it can cause depression and hopelessness. Dopamine is produced by the precursor tyrosine which also must cross the blood-brain barrier to function. It too is transported via an amino acid transporter and depends upon adequate protein intake to get to the brain. Those that eat higher carbs more so than protein rich foods can develop imbalances with their neurotransmitter pathways in the ways mentioned.
How to balance blood sugar better?
Without question, diet is the primary mode of balancing blood sugar and no amount of supplementation can overcome this fact. Here are a few tips to help you balance blood sugar better:
- Eat a breakfast with high quality protein and fat – when we wake up in the morning, our fight and flight hormones are active because of not eating for a long time. To calm down these hormones, a low carb breakfast is preferred. Eating within 1 hour of waking is recommended.
- Eating a small amount of protein every 2-3 hours – this is primarily for people that suffer from low blood sugars and will help to keep the sugar stable without prompting the adrenal glands to produce more catecholamines. Nuts, seeds, boiled egg, protein shakes are examples of such snacks.
- Eating the right amount of carbs during the day – Too high a carbohydrate diet is at the heart of blood sugar imbalances and individually you must find the right amount of carbs for you. A good rule of thumb is… if you feel tired or sleepy after a meal, you’ve eaten too many carbs!
- Avoid sweets or starchy foods before bed – this can be particularly problematic for hypoglycemic patients making them wake up in the middle of the night hungry and anxious because of low blood sugar crashes.
- Avoid fruit juices – these can be excessively sugary and will cause crashes.
- Limit caffeine – it can wreak havoc on the adrenals, stimulating our stress response.
- Eat a well-balanced diet composed of fruits and vegetables with quality meats and fats. Avoid junk foods, fast foods, and other processed foods. A diet high in leafy greens is excellent for good brain health.
Certain nutritional compounds can be very effective for blood sugar balancing and insulin resistance. They are… Chromium, Vanadium, Alpha lipoic acid, Berberine, Inositol, Zinc, Magnesium, Niacin, amongst others.
The bottom line is that many of your symptoms are likely due to a blood sugar imbalance, and it is vital that you correct it to achieve good, lasting health!